Television Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Monday 1 June 2020


SUBJECTS: Housing Stimulus Plan

KIERAN GILBERT: Something Andrew spoke about, those housing grants. Let’s get some thoughts now from the Shadow Housing Minister Jason Clare. Mr Clare, thanks for your time. Andrew is there reporting the threshold for the grants for the homebuyers would be $500,000 in South Australia, 800,000 potentially in New South Wales. Those sorts of thresholds we’re looking at for this in terms of basically ensuring that they are not going to the wealthiest. Would you support that approach?
JASON CLARE: Andrew Clennell is the go-to man to find out what’s going on in this government. I’m glad Andrew knows what’s going on. But tradies don’t know what’s going on. First home buyers don’t know what’s going on. We just need the government to get this information out there. This announcement has had a longer run up than Dennis Lillee.

I’d be keen for the government to stop the breadcrumbs, give us the loaf, give us the information that we need to know here. Nothing’s been announced yet, and it’s about time the government pulled it’s finger out and told us what’s going on.

GILBERT: The run up might be Dennis Lillee, but if Josh Frydenberg bowls like him we’ll be in a good place won’t we? Because they’ll land a good package. The substance of the package, do you like what you hear?

CLARE: Kieran, Dennis was a better bowler when he came off the short run, so I encourage Josh to hurry up, get the information out there because everybody knows that this is needed.

The Coronavirus has punched a massive hole in the economy. It’s blasted the house building industry. You can’t see it yet, but it’s going to happen over the next few months because tradies are still building houses now, but people aren’t signing contracts. That means that concrete slabs won’t be being poured in September, October or November. All of the analysis indicates that instead of 160,000 homes being built this year it might be as low as 100,000. That means in an industry that employs about a million Aussies, lots of carpenters, lots of electricians, lots of plumbers could lose their jobs. Lots of small mum and dad businesses with their names on the side of the ute could hit the wall as well. So that’s why I’ve been encouraging the government for five, six weeks to do something about this. We know the industry is about to go off a cliff. And it’s going to need a comprehensive plan to tackle it.
GILBERT: And should it include renovations as well, not just new homes, to provide that boost for tradies?
CLARE: Could do. I know the Northern Territory Government has already implemented a voucher scheme that’s encouraging people to get a tradie to come around and do some much needed work.  Kieran, it could also include renovations to public housing. One of the things we did during the global financial crisis is get the state governments to bring forward their renovation budgets for public housing. We know there’s a hell of a lot of work needed there.  You can get it done quickly too. And so you can keep tradies working. I think we’d all agree we’d rather see tradies doing that sort of work than just building a longer queue out of Centrelink. So I’d encourage the government to think about this.
GILBERT: How would that work? Would you like to see it means tested?
CLARE: I think it makes sense to target this. At the moment we’re throwing darts in the dark here, Kieran. The government hasn’t announced a thing, but I would encourage them in anything they’re going to announce to be a bit targeted. I think we can all agree, multimillionaires don’t need a lazy 50,000 to buy or to build another mansion. So I’d encourage them to be targeted here. What’s the aim? We want to keep tradies working. We know tens of thousands, maybe more, could lose their job if nothing’s done. And it’s going to take a comprehensive plan by the government to help to make sure that these tradies don’t lose their jobs and a lot of these small family businesses don’t hit the wall.
GILBERT: Credit where credit’s due, the JobKeeper Package, the government, the Prime Minister and Treasurer delivered, did save millions of jobs. So I know for a fact that a tradie had done some work at my place recently. There was one young man who had been laid off in the afternoon, but then he was back the next morning, because of JobKeeper.
CLARE: Yeah, but here’s the thing Kieran. All of this downturn that we expect in the construction of new houses is expected to happen in September, October, November, December and throughout next year. JobKeeper is expected to end in September. That means if all of these tradies run out of work at the end of the year, there won’t be any JobKeeper to save them. That’s why the government has finally woken up and acknowledged that they need to do something here. And I’m glad they are. You know, it’s not just me that’s been saying this. It is the Master Builders Association, it’s the Property Council, it’s the trade union movement, it’s economists, it’s the social housing organisations. Everybody that’s looked at this over the last few weeks has said we’re headed for a cliff, action is needed urgently. And hopefully, instead of breadcrumbs, we’re going to actually get a substantial announcement this week.
GILBERT: So basically the point you’re making is that grants for homebuyers is not enough. You need the renovation component, but also public housing expenditure as well. Is there anything beyond that that you can see for residential construction?
CLARE: Grants will help. But they won’t fill the hole that’s been created by the Coronavirus. The analysis by Ernst and Young shows that the drop from 160,000 homes to 100,000 homes, you can fill some of that with grants to first homeowners and grants to homeowners across the board. Maybe you can build an extra 10,000 or 15,000 homes, but it won’t bring it right back up to 160,000. That’s why I’m saying you need a comprehensive plan.

On the weekend, we suggested that you expand the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. The government announced last week that that scheme was fully subscribed after only five months, and most of the people that benefited from that scheme, which we support, are people that have bought an existing home. Only I think one in five people who’ve benefited from this scheme so far are building a new home. So on the weekend, Anthony Albanese and I suggested that we lift the cap on that scheme for people who want to build their first home. And I think by doing that, that’s just another thing that we can do to help to make sure that we’re building more homes and keeping tradies on the tools instead of at the end of the dole queue.
GILBERT: And that deposit scheme, just to refresh our memories, that basically precludes a first homebuyer from having to pay mortgage insurance.
CLARE: Mortgage insurance. And we support that. We supported it through the parliament, we supported it when it was announced. It can mean for a first time buyer that you don’t have to come up with 5, 10, 15, 20,000 in mortgage insurance upfront, and you’re able to buy a house with as little as 5% deposit. So that can help as well. But we need to use that scheme I think to encourage people to build their first time, particularly at a time when we know that this industry is headed off a cliff.
GILBERT: Jason Clare, appreciate your time. Talk to you soon.
CLARE: Good on you mate.